Three more gain tickets to Beijing

Mon, Jul 21, 2008, 01:00

ATHLETICS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPSIT WOULDN'T be a proper Olympic year unless there was some selection drama, and in the end it proved that way as three further Irish athletes have secured last-minute calls-up to Beijing. Thomas Chamney had earlier won the 800 metres at the National championships in Santry, not just for the glory, as it was later confirmed that B-standards were considered after all.

Athletics Ireland met last night to agree the final nominations for Beijing, ahead of today's cut-off date, and submitted three additional names to the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) - Chamney, 400 metre hurdler Michelle Carey, and marathon runner Pauline Curley, all of whom were just shy of the A-standard qualifying marks.

All three were accepted by the OCI, and along with the 13 athletes with A-standards and already sure of their selection, it brings to 16 the number of athletes put forward by team manager Patsy McGonagle, though the final decision had rested with the OCI.

"There was the argument that with a view to London Olympics in 2012, if athletes are in a particular age range, one would be foolish not to nominate someone on a B-standard, in that position," said McGonagle.

Chamney was intending to run an 800 metres in Belgium yesterday in a final effort to secure the A-standard, having come close on several occasions in recent weeks, including a season's best of 1:46.66 in Italy just last Sunday. The A-standard for Beijing is 1:46.00.

"I was in Belgium on Friday night, ordering a pizza, when I got a phone call from Athletics Ireland, saying get your ass back to Dublin for the national championships," he said. "They just said it would be in my interest if I came back and won, that B-standards might yet be considered."

As David Campbell also has an 800-metre B-standard from last year, and only one such athlete can be nominated, suddenly the national championships turned into an Olympic trial, and Chamney won it hands down - cruising past Campbell in the final 100 metres to win in a tactical 1:50.73 to Campbell's 1:51.07.

"To be honest I am rounding into form now," added the Dublin athlete. "If they were to pick people on B-standards, then I had to put myself top of the pecking order. The whole year was about getting the A-standard, and I'm disappointed not to have run it yet. But I'm 24. I'll be in peak form in London."

Carey, also from Dublin, easily won the 400 metres hurdles yesterday in 58.16 seconds, and has a season's best of 56.19 (the A-standard is 55.60) - and while she is 27, was also put forward by Athletics Ireland as a contender for London.

The surprise nomination was Curley, now aged 39, but who has put a lifetime into running and came so close to running the A-standard in Rotterdam last April. Three years ago, the Tullamore athlete ran her debut marathon in Dublin, and ended up winning the national title in 2:42.16. In Rotterdam, she crossed the line in 2:39.01, the ninth women's finisher overall, and though short of the 2:37 A-standard, it was well inside the 2:42 B-standard - and she becomes Ireland's sole representative in the women's marathon in Beijing.

For the athletes already Beijing-bound, yesterday was about charging the turbo as the main event comes into view - and Paul Hession certainly did that when winning the 100 metres in a championship best 10.25. This was his fourth 10.2-clocking of the season (including a wind-aided 10.21 in his heat): "I'm very consistent, and very happy," said Hession, who will run his main event, the 200 metres, in London next Saturday, and Beijing for him can't come around quickly enough.

Derval O'Rourke also left Santry with a smile on her face after winning a seventh national titles in the 100 metre hurdles, even if the 13.04 was a little disappointing: "I wanted to run 12-something, but technically, I ran so much better than Cork a week ago. I was on my own though, so it really felt like a time trial."

Robert Heffernan took 20 seconds off his own Irish record for the 10,000-metre walk set in 2002 with a brilliant 38:27.57, and his form going to Beijing couldn't be any better.

On Saturday, Eileen O'Keeffe produced another superb series of throws in the women's hammer, her best of 72.75 metres the perfect send-off for Beijing, while Martin Fagan, who will run the marathon, looked comfortable in winning the 10,000 metres in 29:16.53 - as did Fionnuala Britton in the women's 3,000 metres steeplechase (9:51.93). Four Beijing Olympians, however, were absent, with David Gillick, Joanne Cuddihy, Alistair Cragg and 50km walker Colin Griffin scratching for differing reasons.